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GlobalSecurity.org In the News

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri) March 28, 2003

Theater of Urban Warfare

* Coalition forces invading Baghdad for an urban war will face challenges ranging form land mines and booby traps to rooftop snipers and debris roadblocks, plus the threat of chemical weapons. Advanced planning from satellite transmissions, reconnaissance photos, weather forecasts, detailed maps and GPS devices are tools the U.S. military and its allies need to counteract Iraqi tactics.



The success of Operation Iraqi Freedom will depend on three key areas in which coalition forces must be prepared : knowledge of the terrain, troop superiority and training, and effective tools of war.


Cities have a multi-layered, densely packed area that makes warfare more difficult and more dangerous for invading coalition troops. Enemy positions, city layout, regions of major building damage (from aerial bombing runs) and climate must be researched and factored into the war plan. Failure to properly account for any of these factors can pin coalition troops in dangerous areas and expose them to enemy fire. Reconnaissance teams infiltrate secretly and relay vital enemy and regional information back to superiors who plan the course of attack. Even knowledge of weather patterns is crucial in case Iraq uses chemical weapons.


To be successful, allied troops will have to be both physically and mentally prepared for an urban landscape war. Preparation includes:

* Clothing offering protection land mobility despite climate changes.

* Knowledge of proper procedure to take over buildings, conduct sweeps and clear rooms as well as account for enemy snipers. Soldiers also must coordinate changing into chemical safety suits if attacked by biological or chemical weapons.


From their M-60 assault rifles tonight-vision goggles and body-heat sensors, U.S. forces and their allies will have multiple high-tech weapons at their disposal for urban assaults on Baghdad and Basra. Attack and transport helicopters, armored infantry Humvees and tanks will be used in any initial assault to attack and secure areas of the city and then provide cover fire as infantry troops are delivered. Artillery batteries and air-to-surface missiles will be used to weaken Iraqi armored units. Countermeasures in case of chemical attack must be immediate and effective to prevent massive casualties.


Having achieved air supremacy days ago, coalition forces have repeatedly hit Iraqi artillery and armored infantry units to disable any threat to troop transport during an infantry invasion:


Humvees and helicopters deliver troops under the cover of darkness and/or smokescreen once coalition warplanes have hit anti-aircraft batteries, infantry tanks. Suppression fire upon Iraqi positions is needed because infantry are vulnerable if the region and rooftops have not been cleared of enemy snipers or anti-aircraft rocket launchers.


Invading forces must secure areas building by building, street by street. Coalition forces prefer to secure buildings from top to bottom land require secure helicopter drop zones to do so. Soldiers must be leery of booby traps, anti-tank weapons and snipers. Without gaining control of buildings coalition forces will be massed in the streets, vulnerable to attacks from above.


U.S. and coalition forces follow several universal procedures for clearing a room of a building and securing it. SEE DIAGRAM BELOW.


After a building has been cleared of Iraqi forces and swept for traps and mines, it si declared secure. From the rooftop, coalition snipers will set up shop and attempt to kill their Iraqi counterparts. Snipers re trained to move quietly, to avoid detection, and to conserve energy. Once their high-powered rifles are trained on enemy targets blocks away, they shoot to kill.


FIGHTING FOR SADDAM Having employed use of guerrilla tactics, the Iraqi military is now positioning its elite Republican Guard to defend Iraq's two largest cities of Basra and Baghdad. Here is how Iraqi forces may try to repel coalition forces:


Republican Guard troops have the advantage of knowledge of city topography, the region and its climate. Iraqi forces strategically placed throughout the city can take away the element of surprise from coalition forces by identifying an invasion and quickly forming a counterattack. Iraqi troops see to hold tall buildings from which snipers, anti-aircraft and anti-armor operators can inflict damage. Ground troop units dispersed throughout the city will counterattack and attempt to isolate approaching coalition forces. Iraq may also use chemical weapons once coalition forces reach a predetermined area.


Knowledge of regional terrain allows Iraqi troops to select the most advantageous troop, armor and artillery positions. Guerrilla tactics help Iraqi troops force coalition troops into the most dangerous and vulnerable areas of the city. Snipers and artillery operators have important roles because they must quickly identify and neutralize helicopter or tank attacks and troop deployments.


At a technological disadvantage, Iraqi forces use Russian and Chinese-made tanks and SA-series artillery surface-to-air missiles to combat coalition infantry and helicopter air support. Many Iraqi helicopters and fighters have been destroyed by U.S. and British air raids. Infantry troops wear steel helmets but few have body armor. Russian-made Kalashnikov rifles and rocket-propelled grenades will be used in urban combat. Shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles are meant to bring down coalition helicopters.


To repel a coalition attack, the Iraqi military would need to make use of the Baghdad cityscape and likely guerrilla warfare tactics:


Republican Guard soldiers will try to maintain hold of rooftops and tall buildings so they can identify and fire upon approaching U.S. transport and attack helicopters. Scouts relay information to superiors who formulate a counteroffensive to the coalition invasion.


Republican Guard troops will try to remain concealed to utilize the element of surprise against invading troops. Unstable buildings damaged by bombing runs can be detonated to kill coalition troops. Government buildings containing fake documents may be filled with booby traps. Maintaining control of buildings forces coalition troops into a street firefight where they are vulnerable to Iraqi troops stations above them.


In addition to use of conventional artillery, Iraqi troops may use guerrilla warfare tools such as booby traps and ambushes to prevent coalition infantry attempts to overtake areas of the city room by room and building by building. Burning debris barricades are used either to prevent access by coalition tanks and assault vehicles - or to trap and isolate them for guerrilla units to counterattack with anti-armor weapons and shoulder-fired grenades and rockets.


Republican Guard troops dressed as civilians already have ambushed coalition forces and Iraqi soldiers have used public hospitals as their base of operations. With the opposition blurring the rules of engagement, U.S. troops may have to assume all Iraqis to be hostile until proven otherwise. U.S. military leaders must determine if coalition soldiers can apply force to subdue civilians to assure soldiers' safety.


Utilizing a 4-man stack team, ground forces can clear a room to establish a defensive position in a building . Each man has a specific role and order in taking a room.

NUMBER ONE MAN enters the room and immediately starts clearing to the right. He will clear his threat corner first, then continue along the wall until he reachers the deepest corner of the room. He engages target the entire time.

NUMBER TWO MAN enters the room simultaneously with the number one man and starts clearing to the left, moving along the near wall and clearing his immediate threat corner first. If he cannot move along the near wall because of the entry point, he will move in far enough to get out of the fatal funnel.

NUMBER THREE MAN enters the room simultaneously with number one and number two men. He will clear his immediate threat on the far wall and move to the right corner on the near wall. If his corner is in the fatal funnel, he will move halfway down the near wall.

NUMBER FOUR MAN stays at the entrance or in the hallway to hold security. He stays prepared to enter the room if the first three men come under heavy enemy fire or if one man has a weapon malfunction.


Sources: Post-Dispatch-research; The Associated Press; Globalsecurity.org; the U.S. Army and Amour Magazine


GRAPHIC: PHOTO, GRAPHIC, MAP; (1) Color Photo by Agence-France Presse - Even with technological superiority and training, weather conditions and terrain can drastically alter battle plans. A soldier from the 3rd Infantry Division of the U.S. Army guards a coalition-secured airfield in spite of the sandstorm that slowed U.S. troops' advance toward Baghdad earlier this week. GRAPHIC (2) Color graphic map/illustration by Darryl Swint and Jacob Piercy/Post-Dispatch - Theater of Urban Warfare; Color illustrations of all the various steps outlined in the text

Copyright 2003, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Inc.